7 steps to the perfect mulled wine


by Kathryn Kjarsgaard 


nothing signals the arrival of the holidays like a warm, fragrant glass of mulled wine — traditionally referred to as glühwein.

Spiced and heated wine can be traced back to the Romans in the 2nd century. Glühwein, roughly translated as “glow wine” — referring to the red hot irons used to heat the wine across the Germanic cultures — has been popular for centuries in German-speaking countries and the region of Alsace in France. It is a traditional beverage offered in many countries during the Christmas holidays.

Sarah E. Clark, beverage director and assistant general manager of The Dearborn, Chicago, introduced her version of mulled wine to the restaurant’s menu a few years ago to complement the Christkindlmarket, which is a large open-air holiday festival and market held across the street from The Dearborn each year in November and December.

“We are located right across from the Daley Center in Chicago, and each year the Christkindlmarket is set up there with items like handmade ornaments and gifts from Germany, Austria and Ukraine,” says Clark. “It also offers food and mulled wine. The market is outside, so we thought we’d offer our version of mulled wine for those who want to come inside and sit down for a nice glass of glühwein.”

Clark incorporated various spices and aromas associated with the holidays into the recipe, and she added dried apricots to round out the flavor and viscosity.

MulledWine_ZBar_Photo by Jess Paro
photo by Jess Paro

The Dearborn’s simple glühwein recipe, which can be made ahead and heated before serving, follows these steps:

1. Gather Ingredients

The base of mulled wine is, of course, wine. The Dearborn’s recipe calls for burgundy wine, port and brandy.

It also includes lemon and orange wedges, as well as dried apricots and raisins. For spices, the recipe uses whole cloves and whole star anise as well as cinnamon sticks, ground allspice and sugar in the raw.

“I created this recipe myself, and it allows for a lot of variation,” says Clark. “You can add more or less star anise or cinnamon. You can swap other spices in and out per personal preference without changing the overall drink.”

2. Combine

Add all the ingredients to a large pot at the same time.

3. Simmer

Simmer the mixture, stirring frequently for 2½ to 3 hours.

“You never want it to boil because it involves alcohol and can start a fire, plus that would give it a bitter taste,” says Clark. “A light simmer and good amount of steam are all it needs.”

4. Strain

Next, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth. “You want to remove the lemon and orange pulp and any whole spices,” she says. “And, this gives it a cleaner, more finished look.”

5. Cool

Cool the liquid before storing it.

6. Store

Store the cooled mixture in a large-format dispenser, such as a Bunn coffee dispenser.

7. Serve

Re-heat the glühwein on the stove, bringing it just to a rolling steam. Do not microwave it, Clark adds.

Serve the mulled wine in a footed clear glass mug with a handle, which is key because the wine will be really hot. “We use the footed glass mug because I like the look of it, and also it’s the same one we use for Irish coffee,” says Clark.

Finish the drink with golden raisins floating on top. “Another option is to top it with a floating orange slice or an orange skewered with raisins for a flag.”

“This is a really nice, comforting drink,” says Clark. “It’s very balanced and not overly sweet. It’s really great when it’s snowing out, and it gives guests a new option besides coffee or hot chocolate in the winter months. It’s more elegant and very soothing.”

The Dearborn recipe makes 5L of mulled wine, but during the peak season, Clark will sometimes triple the recipe and make 15L. It is served in a 5-ounce portion, like a glass of wine.

Get more drink recipes at acfchefs.org.

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